Jeff Koons
(born 1955 in Pennsylvania) is an American artist living in New York City. Among the most famous and commercially successful artists of our time, Koons is perhaps best known for using quotidian objects, such as balloons, vacuum cleaners and basketballs as his subjects. He holds the record for selling the most expensive work by a living artist sold at auction.

Stephanie Seymour
is an American model and actress. Seymour has modeled for many notable fashion magazines, like Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and on the cover of Vogue. Seymour has also posed for several well-known photographers including Herb Ritts, Richard Avedon, Gilles Bensimon and Mario Testino.

As I walk through Jeff’s workmanlike studio on 29th street I feel a rush of optimism. There in his modern-day, high-tech paint shop are his aluminum sculptures, waiting to be painted in an array of sublime colors. Passing through the office space I find Jeff and Gary busy bringing up images on the computer as if it were a compass. Here I find hundreds of objects, from soft pool toys to cannons and cannonball miniatures from the Civil War. There are the big plastic Hulks and the now-famous model of the Train, soon to be a vertical locomotive, hanging head first from a 150-foot crane at the LACMA in LA.

Then, of course, there are his paintings. They are the ultimate in paint-by-number with the most precise and exact color and form. Jeff’s 50 or so assistants all seem to be connected to his vision, never seeming discontent, working alongside him as if by remote control. After many visits I’ve realized that Jeff is completely committed to perfection at any cost. He is the ultimate romantic; nothing leaves unless Jeff is convinced it’s as good as it can be. From the subject matter to his execution, he is always dedicated to making the ready-made translate into art. Each visit with Jeff and his team is a moment to remember. I love Jeff Koons.

STEPHANIE SEYMOUR: So how do you feel, you’ve had your picture taken a lot? I was reading about your shoot with Greg Gorman. I love those pictures.

JEFF KOONS: You know, Stephanie, Greg Gorman—that’s the first time that I worked with a professional photographer. And I remember I saw a photograph that he shot of David Bowie in Artforum. And the photograph looked so tight; it just looked like it was glass and you could take a hammer, and if you touched it, it would just shatter.

SS: Was it a portrait?

JK: It was a portrait of Bowie. And he was in a gold suit and it was just beautiful, very celebrity. So I called him, and it turned out that I was going to go to Los Angeles to do a shoot, and he said, “Jeff, I’m in New York. I’m doing a photo session here. Run over to the hotel.” He was at the Parker Meridien. So I went over there, and he did this photograph of me that I used for the Artforum project called “Baptism.” Greg gave me more of a celebrity look, more of a polished look. And I ended up going out and working with Greg, and I designed these ads that I did for my “Banality” show.

SS: I love those pictures of you. I think those were the first pictures that I’d ever seen of you.

JK: So you’ve been photographed a lot.

SS: [Laughs.] I’ve been photographed a lot. It gets a little easier. I don’t think it’s so easy to be photographed all the time. If you can sort of … don’t you find it’s easier to sort of step out of yourself a little bit? When you’re being photographed, isn’t it difficult to just be you?

JK: I’ve become self-conscious, ’cause I’m aware of what imperfections I would have. So I look for a little direction a lot of times and that makes me then feel a little more secure. But I think of my family, so I’ll think of my children and usually that makes me lighten up. And I feel their presence instead of the presence of other people.

SS: Yes, that always helps me, too, so that you know if you’re feeling nervous or stiff you have to sort of relax and think about things you like. And then you always feel like you have a nice expression.

JK: I think by the end of this interview I’m going to take a nice photo.

SS: So I was reading this book last night, and I read the really sweet things about you. You know this book, right?

JK: Doesn’t this remind you a little bit like a teenage diary in a way?

SS: Yeah, it’s the perfect size—it is very much like a diary, and even the way it’s written that’s how it sort of feels. I love this book. I was reading it aloud to Peter; I think Peter really wanted to come here today and do the interview [laughs]. I think he was very disappointed that they didn’t ask him! No, he was excited that I was coming to do this today, so we were talking about you all night long. But I was reading to Peter, because he’s always fascinated with the idea that your father had a furniture showroom. But it sounds like your father did even more than just sell furniture —he was a decorator. And we didn’t know that.

JK: Yeah, my dad, when he was young and in high school, he worked for a decorating firm called Bentz, in York, where I grew up. And he started unpacking furniture and doing things like that but he started to enjoy decorating and understanding. He learned decorating there. And he went into the service, and when he came back he went back to working for Bentz. And he started to get involved in decorating and it was very natural for him. He ended up developing his own business, and in York, Pennsylvania, he was really the best-known
decorator there.

SS: That’s so interesting.

JK: So as a child I really learned how color and texture and different objects can make you feel differently about things. So my father had showrooms of different fabrics and different wallpapers. And the showroom would also change all the time. One month one room would be a living room, and the next month it could be a dining room and a couple weeks later it could be a den. And I realized that I would feel different emotionally—whether it was French provincial or a modern den, you’d feel differently